Adivasi leaders opposing iron mines in Maharashtra arrested

Locals allege lathi charge by cops; Police say protestors stopped way of security personnel heading towards a police station

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Tuesday 21 November 2023
Photo for representation: CSE

Maharshtra Police on November 20, 2023 arrested eight prominent Adivasi leaders of an anti-mining agitation that has been going on for 250 days. 

About 1,000 residents from more than 70 Adivasi villages surrounding the Surajgarh hills in Gadchiroli district have been opposing six proposed iron mines owned by Jindal Steel, Lloyd Steel and others since March 2023.

Advocate and leader of Damkondawahi Bachao Andolan, Lalsu Nogoti, said on November 20 morning, police forces from multiple thanas arrived at the main protest site in Todgatta and took all the protest leaders and important activists such as Pradip Khedo and Mangesh Naroti to the side. 

The protest leaders were then taken away via a helicopter to ensure that the police vehicles are not blocked to prevent the arrests, Nogoti told Down To Earth. The other arrested leaders are Mahadu Kawdo, Sai Kawdo, Gillu Kawdo, Laxman Jetti, Ganesh Korea, Nikesh Naroti and Dulsa Kawashi. 

Nogoti also alleged the police searched and destroyed the huts of the protesting villagers and resorted to lathi charge in the afternoon.

“There was not even a single female police officer present. This is a very concerning and urgent development and the police are severely cracking down on the Damkondawahi Bachao Andolan, which has been peaceful for over 250 days,” he said. 

The police had also recorded video footage of the village activities via drone cameras in the region for the past couple of days before making the arrests, he added.

Since the protest began, there has been virtually no support from any politician for the protest. “With the exception of a few, no government officials arrived at the protest site to understand the issues of the villagers,” he said. 

At present, the village is surrounded by a heavy police force and more leaders are being searched, he added.

The eight arrested people had allegedly stopped the way of security personnel heading towards a police station, the Gadchiroli police said in a statement, reported news agency Press Trust of India. Police parties from Gatta along with C-60 teams, a special anti-Maoist commando force of Maharashtra, were going towards Wangeturi through Todgatta when the agitators stopped them from going ahead, the release said. 

Some 10-15 people pushed the police parties and police have detained eight of those people, the release said, adding there was no use of any force by police.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.